4 Steps for Baby Sign Language Beginners
#1 – To start teaching your Baby Sign Language, first choose two or three words that you would like her to know. Most parents and caregivers start with a few of the following: milk, more, eat, hurt, diaper, or help. There are benefits to each of these signs, but it might be overwhelming to try them all at first. You know your baby best, so you can decide which signs will work best for you.
#2 – Now you’ve picked out the signs! Now you need to learn them! Don’t panic! This is way easier than it looks! The signs are available for you, for free online at sites like Baby Sign Language For Babies. There are animations, and there are also printable flashcards that you can print out and hang strategically around your house. I am partial to the fridge and near the crib, but there’s nothing that says you can’t wallpaper your house with Baby Sign Language Flash Cards. (Well, your interior designer might take issue, but other than that …) You can reference these signs and websites as often as you need to. You don’t need to be a pro signer! Your baby will think you are brilliant no matter how many times you have to cheat! And believe me, it won’t be long before you can do these signs in your sleep!
#3 – Now you know the signs, you need to make the signs as often as possible. Every single time you say the word “milk,” you need to make the sign for “milk.” Then make sure you produce the milk! In no time, your baby will learn to associate the sign with the actual milk, which is a giant step toward your baby using language. It is important to be consistent and redundant. Every single time you say one of the words you’ve chosen, you need to make the sign, even if you are in line at the grocery store, even if your mother-in-law’s watching, even if you are exhausted and thinking it is just not worth it! Repetition is the secret to learning! (Of course, if you forget to make the sign a few times, it is not the end of the world.)
#4 – This step is perhaps the most important. Have fun and don’t get frustrated! It might be months before you see any evidence that your baby is learning anything, but he is, I promise! Some babies take to signing right away, and some just find it silly and use it as an opportunity to giggle at you. But all babies benefit! So, if you’ve been plugging away at your first three signs for three months to what seems like no avail, do not give up! When your baby does decide to sign back to you, it will be worth it all, and the benefits will be plenty. And every single moment spent bonding and communicating with your baby is one that you and she will cherish forever (even if she never really remembers it)!